Male competition fitness landscapes predict both forward and reverse speciation

Jason Keagy, Liliana Lettieri, Janette W. Boughman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Speciation is facilitated when selection generates a rugged fitness landscape such that populations occupy different peaks separated by valleys. Competition for food resources is a strong ecological force that can generate such divergent selection. However, it is unclear whether intrasexual competition over resources that provide mating opportunities can generate rugged fitness landscapes that foster speciation. Here we use highly variable male F2 hybrids of benthic and limnetic threespine sticklebacks, Gasterosteus aculeatus Linnaeus, 1758, to quantify the male competition fitness landscape. We find that disruptive sexual selection generates two fitness peaks corresponding closely to the male phenotypes of the two parental species, favouring divergence. Most surprisingly, an additional region of high fitness favours novel hybrid phenotypes that correspond to those observed in a recent case of reverse speciation after anthropogenic disturbance. Our results reveal that sexual selection through male competition plays an integral role in both forward and reverse speciation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-80
Number of pages10
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Male competition fitness landscapes predict both forward and reverse speciation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this